Legislative laughs abound at Gwinnett chamber forum

This legislative session, Clay Cox has become an expert in two areas.

"All I know about anymore is cable television and payday lending," the Republican legislator from Lilburn told a crowd at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

But Cox's wife, Alisa, added another subject to the list after the meeting: the soap opera "General Hospital."

Cox jokingly blamed his high cable rate on his wife's affinity for SoapNet when discussing a bill that would allow cable companies to franchise with the state instead of individual cities or counties.

"It costs me $100 for television that used to be free," Cox said. "The result of this bill, I believe, is lower cable rates."

After the meeting Alisa Cox said her husband shouldn't pass the buck. He's just as big a fan of the soap opera - a show they TiVo and watch together - as she is.

"I've got to have 'General Hospital,'" the state representative admitted.

The gathering Thursday was full of laughter, as legislators joked with each other and the audience.

Rep. Bobby Reese, R-Sugar Hill, blushed deeply when he quipped, "Liquor laws - that's what makes America so great."

Actually, Reese meant the ability of local governments to make laws on liquor is what he loves about his country.

But the one-liner came from the man who earlier in the evening told the crowd: "You get a lot of wisdom in the elevator or in the bathroom."

Seriously, though, Reese and Cox joined Reps. Donna Sheldon, Mike Coan and John Heard in updating the crowd on the crucial matters being discussed at the Capitol.

The legislators said they expected some movement on a public health funding formula that is leaving Gwinnett behind other counties in terms of appropriations per resident, but they were less optimistic about a resolution to traffic issues.

"It's frustrating," Heard, R-Lawrenceville, said. "We've got to get away from thinking about how powerful someone is based on what kind of car they drive and talk about some real alternatives."

"What kind of car do you drive?" Reese asked.

"I drive a Segway," joked Heard, referring to the electric scooter he uses on the campaign trail.

Resolution apologizes for eugenics participation

Sen. David Shafer subscribes to the old saying that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

With that lesson in mind, the Duluth Republican has introduced a resolution that apologizes for Georgia's participation in eugenics, an international movement that advocated improving the human race through selective breeding.

Eugenics resulted in compulsory sterilizations of criminals and people with mental and physical disabilities in Georgia and more than 30 other states, starting in 1907 in Indiana.

The General Assembly passed a compulsory sterilization law in 1937, which remained on the books until 1970. During those years, about 3,300 Georgians were forcibly sterilized, mostly patients in state mental hospitals, the fifth largest number in the country.

Shafer said it's important to the future to remember history's lessons.

"It's hubris to believe that we are incapable of making the mistakes of our grandparents and great-grandparents,'' he said. "Recognizing our mistakes helps us avoid the same or similar mistakes in the future.''

A similar resolution has been introduced in the House by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur.

Staff writer Dave Williams contributed to this column.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.